How anorexic kids as young as 13 are meeting online and helping each other starve
AFTER 93 hours of fasting, 15-year-old Sarah’s* body has been pushed to breaking point: she’s lost her hearing, she’s feeling dizzy and her eyesight is going. But she knows she ca…
9:35 amAFTER 93 hours of fasting, 15-year-old Sarah's* body has been pushed to breaking point: she's lost her hearing, she's feeling dizzy and her eyesight is going.But she knows she can't eat because her ana buddy - an online pal of a similar age who also has an eating disorder - is forcing her to starve herself and will send her abuse if she doesn't.
Instagram7Brit teens are going online to look for coaches to encourage their eating disordersSarah is one of dozens of British children who use ana buddies and ana coaches - people who encourage anorexia sufferers to starve themselves via online trolling.
It's part of a shocking online trend uncovered by Sun Online where unwell young teens, often girls, look for ‘buddies’, ‘coaches’ and even ask cruel trolls to abuse them in a bid to fuel their eating disorderWhile most ana buddies and coaches are people who are also battling eating disorders, some appear to be vile internet trolls who are exploiting kids when they are at their most vulnerable. headtopics.com
Instagram7Girls as young as 12 are searching for 'ana buddies' and 'ana coaches' to fuel their eating disordersMany of these anabuddies are anonymous, hiding behind Instagram accounts which send nasty and harmful messages to vulnerable teenagers.
According to eating disorder charity Beat, approximately 1.25m people in the UK are suffering from an eating disorder, and the mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
Without treatment, up to 20 per cent of people with serious eating disorders die.The condition can affect anyone at any time, but girls and young women aged 12-20 are found to be most at risk.Here, Sun Online investigates the disturbing new trend.'If you’re looking to lose weight - come to me'
Teens looking to encourage each other in their eating disorders regularly use social media to look for ‘ana buddies’ or 'ana coaches' - ana being short for anorexic - before setting up private pro-ana groups on messaging apps.One Twitter user we found - who claims to be just 13 - outlines the ‘diet’ she’s promoting for members of her Kik group. headtopics.com
Recovering anorexic speaks out about how social media fuelled her eating disorderInviting young teens age 13 or above to join if they have an eating disorder, recommends a ‘schedule’ including one fast day, and one day of 300 calories.According to NHS guidelines, a girl of this age should have 2,200 calories a day.
A quick search for the term ‘ana’ on Kik reveals a whole array of public groups seemingly promoting eating disorders.One public group’ specifies it’s for people aged 14 plus and has 40 members.One Instagram user, who says she is 17, has a photo feed littered with dangerously underweight girls. Commenting on someone else's photo she pleads: "Is anyone a coach here I need one."
She is inundated with offers that move to private message.‘You'll be considered nothing but a piece of meat'While it’s no secret Twitter has an issue with trolls, alarmingly some eating disorder sufferers are actively seeking out ‘meanspo’ - translated as ‘mean inspiration’ from ‘coaches’- specifically asking strangers for vicious insults in a bid to ‘encourage’ them to starve to reach their ‘goal’ weight.
One of these coaches posted: “I'm borderline abusive but I don't care. If you're looking to lose weight come to me."You must be willing to do literally anything. You'll be considered nothing but a piece of meat."Instagram7The Sun Online found ana coaches posted abusive messages headtopics.com
Another 'coach' on Twitter told her followers that they'd be 'pretty' and would have lost the fat on their body by now if they just exercised more.Disturbingly, her followers responded gratefully, saying thank you and asking her to coach them, with one saying they'd be grateful for more 'meanspo'.
When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson said: "We allow this type of conversation on Twitter so long as it's people reaching out to support others who may be struggling with these issues. If the conversation promotes or glorifies this type of behaviour, we'd take action."
InstagramGirls are spurring each other on with their eating disorders‘Cheekbones, collarbones and rib cages’Our investigation also found that teens and young people in the throes of anorexia are also using fasting apps to form groups which encourage weight loss, with apps available for download to anyone aged 12 or over.
Twitter7People with eating disorders are using fasting apps and then posting their results on social media sites such as TwitterThe apps are being used by those suffering with the disease, who are then posting screenshots of their ‘progress’.One app, the LIFE Fasting Tracker - rated 12+ on the App Store - allows users to create profiles, track weight losses and form groups where other users can share their progress and have it displayed in a 'leaderboard.'
By searching trigger words within the app, multiple groups promoting eating disorders and extreme weight loss are promoted.One group contains 416 members and has a description which says “I do this to be skinny”.The description of a group with over 300 members, says: “only for serious weight loss, cheekbones, colorbones [sic] and rib cages”.
LIFE FastingFasting apps show a leader board of people fasting‘We’re designed to fast’At least five groups which contained references to anorexia or bulimia are active on the app.One Twitter user shared a screenshot from the app showing that they had completed a nearly three day long fast. The app shared a message of “congratulations!” when she’d successfully completed the time.
Another app - the Zero Fasting Tracker-with the same age ratings displays a screen which reads “we’re designed to fast” upon first use.Screenshots of the apphave been postedto the Twitter accounts of social media users who regularly use anorexia related hashtags.
When installing the app, our journalist indicated that they were 12 years old when prompted to enter date of birth, and they were granted access to multiple fasting options.Sun Online have reached out to Zero Fasting Tracker for comment, andJustin Helmig, Chief Marketing Officer, for LIFE Apps said:
"We absolutely discourage eating disorders, that's why education through our app and website is such a crucial pillar to our community."We have tools in place to monitor and curate inappropriate groups as well as enable users to report inappropriate content and do not condone any unsafe behaviour no matter the age. "Additionally, our Terms and Conditions discourages a variety of groups from participating in intermittent fasting, including minors and those with eating disorders."
‘Need a strong ana buddy who will push me to starve’While Instagram have made attempts to remove certain hashtags, within seconds of searching for pro-anorexia hashtags we still found numerous posts advertising eating disorder ‘coaching’.One Instagram user advertised their ‘help’ with a photo reading: “I’m a male Ana-coach. I’m strict and harsh. I’m borderline abusive but I don’t care.”
Underneath it said: “If you consider this too extreme don’t even message me, just keep stuffing your fat f**king face with food and keep scrolling.”And while we found a warning message by Instagram does pop up if users search for damaging hashtags, posts looking for ana buddies are also still accessible.
One post still available to view says: “Need a strong ana buddy who will push me to starve and lose more weight! I’ll do the same for you. Dm me if you want to! Please help”.When contacted an Instagram spokesperson said: “We do not and have never allowed content that encourages or promotes eating disorders and will remove it as soon as we are made aware. We know many people recovering from eating disorders use Instagram in a positive way to get support for themselves and to support others with their recovery. That's why we allow content that discusses eating disorders for the purpose of recovery.
InstagramPeople with eating disorders are actively looking for people to send abusive comments to them, in a bid to try and stop them eating'Losing weight becomes an 'achievement''Eating disorder charity Beat’s Head of Communications Rebecca Willgress says: "O
nline platforms and ‘leader boards’ that encourage people to compete to entrench their illness are very harmful, especially as many people with eating disorders have low self-esteem and become dependent on losing weight to feel achievement.HOT TROPICBrits to sizzle in 900 mile-wide 28C Spanish Plume before three MONTH heatwave
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CORB CAUTIONNigel Farage's Brexit Party will let Corbyn become PM, Jacob Rees-Mogg warnsID ROWSainsbury's refused to hand over man's food as he didn't have ID to prove he was 18"Eating disorders are extremely complex mental illnesses that develop as a result of many risk factors, and social media is never the sole and direct cause of someone developing an eating disorder.
"However we strongly encourage social media platforms to do more to ensure such content cannot be posted, in the same way as they are now cracking down on images of self-harm.“It is important to note that most pro-ana and pro-mia content is posted by people who are themselves suffering from an eating disorder and is not deliberately malicious.
"People may use forums that encourage disordered eating because they feel they can talk to people with similar experiences and be understood. Yet there are positive social media accounts and online forums that people can turn to instead and social media platforms should do more to direct affected users to such sources of support.”
While social media sites insist they do everything they can to protect young teens from harm, with easily accessible posts encouraging unhealthy fasting, it's clear there's still along way to go.If you're affected or need advice, please visit
website, or call their helpline number 0808 801 0677. Read more: The Sun »
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